By Scott Westerman
There are those names the world knows and there are those only insiders know. Dick Kernen was the ultimate insider.
The original Program Director at WRIF and a longtime fixture at the Specs Howard School of Broadcasting, Dick was a revered personality that all of us who ever cracked a mic in Michigan came to know and love. Radio draws egos. The instant gratification on the Hit Lines, the recognition at personal appearances and the sensation that thousands of ears are listening to you talk can be intoxicating.
That wasn’t Dick’s thing. He was all about promoting The Craft and developing new talent. When I was programming WATT in Cadillac, Dick was the guy I turned to for names when I wanted to hire up-and-coming jocks. He had a photographic memory for people and seemed to know everything about my own broadcast trajectory. He was always supportive. His wisdom was vast but he never forced it on you.
And Dick never lost his love for a business that no longer loves its performers. When he died on December 18 at age 82, another page in the history of the radio trade turned.
All things must pass. But those of us with broadcasting dreams will never forget the impact Dick had on our profession and our lives. My good friend, Fred Jacobs, penned a much better remembrance than I ever could. Here’s the link.
Meanwhile: If you live in North Korea, listening to the wrong radio station can kill you. A fishing boat captain was publicly executed in late October for allegedly listening to Radio Free Asia. A reminder that, in some parts of the world, radio is still the only way to know what’s really going on.
Today in Rock History
Acker Bilk’s 55 week run on the UK singles charts came to an end on this date in 1962. The British clarinetist was the first UK artist to hit number one on the US singles chart in the sixties with his massive smash, Stranger on the Shore (Video).
One Hit Wonders Steam started a two week run at No.1 on the US singles chart with Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye on this date in 1969 (Video). The song was actually recorded by Gary De Carlo, who intended it to be the “B” side of his first single. Gary didn’t like the song and when record executives wanted to issue it as the “A” side, he insisted it be released under an assumed name. The song became a UK No.5 single for girl group Bananarama in 83.
Today in 1973, Elton John was in the second week at Number 2 in the US with the title track from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, (Video) edged out of the number one spot by the Carpenters‘ Top of the World and Charlie Rich‘s crossover country hit, The Most Beautiful Girl.
In 1975, a thief stole a suitcase containing $86,000 in Ike and Tina Turner‘s concert receipts.
I’m a huge fan of Rupert Holmes‘ 1974 debut LP Widescreen. The album wasn’t a hit but had a huge underground fanbase for the artist who gave us the song Timothy, made famous by the Bouys in 1971. On this date in 1979, Holmes finally got his chart topper, leading the survey with Escape, (The Pina Colada Song) (Video).
1915 – Barbara Billingsley, American actress (Leave it to Beaver), born in Los Angeles, California (d. 2010)
1917 – Gene Rayburn, TV game show host (Match Game), born in Christopher, Illinois (d. 1999)
1936 – Hector Elizondo, American actor (American Gigolo, Young Doctors in Love), born in NYC, New York
1939 – James Gurley – guitarist for Big Brother And The Holding Company (“Piece Of My Heart”)
1944 – Barry Jenkins – drummer for The Nashville Teens (“Tobacco Road”)
1946 – Rick Nielson – guitarist for Cheap Trick (“I Want You To Want Me”)
1948 – Alan Williams – lead vocalist for The Rubettes (“Sugar Baby Love”)
1949 – Maurice Gibb – bass / keyboards for The Bee Gees (“To Love Somebody”)
1949 – Robin Gibb – vocalist for The Bee Gees (“Massachusetts”)
1962 – Ralph Fiennes, English actor (Schindler’s List, The English Patient), born in Ipswich, Suffolk